Over the course of the past two weeks, I’ve spent quite a lot of time on the telephone talking with former Fulbright Scholars to Romania as well as friends or friends of friends who have spent some time in Romania. Everyone had positive things to say about the country: the people are friendly, they like and are kind to children, the food is delicious, the scenery and especially the countryside is gorgeous, etc. These are all pleasant things to hear, especially given that I don’t have any experience there, so it’s nice to know that colleagues and friends have enjoyed their time in Romania.
As I reflect back on all of these conversations, though, I’m struck by the narrative patterns that have emerged for me, especially in regards to gendered interpretations. Specifically, what I mean is that most of the men I talked with expressed some degree of regret that they did not make more Romanian friends and that they found it difficult to engage and engage with native Romanians. Some, not all, of the women also put their fingers on this issue but also noted that they figured this out pretty quickly and realized that in order to create relationships with Romanians, they would need to reach out to them; that is, invite them over for dinner, join hiking and other sorts of civic organizations or clubs and express a kind of generosity, as well as humility, that they didn’t expect they would necessarily need to engage but that, once they did, reaped nice relational benefits for everyone.
I guess this says more about us, as Americans, that it does about Romanians, but one of my takeaways from these rich and enlightening conversations I’ve had is that part of the quality of our time in Romania will be contingent upon what we are willing and able to give.